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Presidents Club Speaker Overcame Poverty Illiteracy

By Floyd Miller



The 2006 HSU Presidents Club Dinner welcomed Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch as the featured {{more}} speaker for the annual event. The dinner was organized in 1968 to honor the dedicated men who served as presidents of the University and is designed to aid the current president and all who succeed him in achieving goals for the continued growth of HSU and the achievement of excellence in education.Kickbusch credits a “social experiment,” which brought 30 disadvantaged Hispanic youth to HSU as students, for giving her the skills and knowledge to succeed in a rather remarkable life. A strong proponent of life-skills and mentorship, she and the group of poor, non-English speaking students, were themselves the beneficiaries of former HSU faculty member Dr. Julian Bridges’ encouragement, guidance, and compassion. He helped them find the strength and resolve to stay at the University despite the utterly alien environment it first seemed. One of ten children on the “third from the last street in the United States,” Consuelo Kickbusch grew up in the Hispanic barrio of Laredo, Texas. Her father fed and clothed the family on only $400 per month. She remembered being astonished that she would have only one roommate in college, “This room would have housed ten people where I came from. For the first time in my life, I slept in a bed by myself,” she remembered. The challenges seemed enormous, yet Dr. Bridges calmly persuaded the students to stay when lessons in an unfamiliar language seemed too difficult, when it seemed that other students didn’t want them, and when their hopes for changing their lives seemed beyond their reach. Thinking it was a social club, Kickbusch joined the University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps because “they seemed to have a lot of fun. The yelling didn’t bother me; it reminded me of my mother at home.”Four years of brutal work, and not a few tears, produced 30 of the proudest graduates imaginable. As an ROTC student, Kickbusch was eligible for a commission in the United States Army. The new grad became the first woman commissioned as an ROTC officer in the state of Texas in 1976, and went on to become one of the most decorated and highest ranking officers in the Army. She was not alone; 28 of the 30 graduates from the “social experiment” went on to earn advanced degrees.Her efforts after leaving the Army brought her full-circle to helping disadvantaged youth. Her dedication to the underprivileged youth of America has led her to work with over one million children, their parents, and educators. Consuelo encounters some of the roughest neighborhoods, similar to the one she lived in, as she inspires the youth growing up in these barrios. Calling them, “diamonds in the rough,” she encourages them to believe that “we can make our dreams come true, to not give up hope, but rather to take charge of your lives, make a real difference in your families/communities and follow a disciplined road map to success.” Her book Journey to the Future and her video entitled “¿Porqué No? – Why Not?” provide practical techniques for children to develop higher self-esteem and achieve their personal goals, as well as providing young people with a framework for early leadership development.Hispanic Business Magazine recently named LTC Kickbusch in their list of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America. In conjunction with the U.S. Army, Hispanic Magazine bestowed the Latina Leadership Excellence Award for Kickbusch’s youth service and military accomplishments. In addition, Saturn and Glamour magazines honored Kickbusch with the 2002 Women at Their Best Award, given to the top 100 women in the country. Again in 2002, the National Association of Women Business Owners bestowed their Entrepreneurial Spirit Award recognizing Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch’s “Mentoring Spirit.” Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch resides in San Antonio, Texas, where she remains a loving and supportive wife to her husband, LTC David Kickbusch and mother to her five children, Kenitha, Alice, little Consuelo, and twins, Delilah and Dolores.

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